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Christian leaders say Obama's Cairo speech built bridges



Two weeks after President Barack Obama's groundbreaking speech in Cairo, several Christian leaders gave the president positive marks and expressed hope that it would open a new chapter of dialogue.

"I think it had a very positive effect. It opened new horizons for cooperation between Christians and Muslims, between political authorities, between East and West," said Father Rif'at Bader, who serves as a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Jordan.

"Bridges are being built between civilizations and between religions, and as Christians we pray that everything the politicians are saying will be realized very quickly," he told Catholic News Service June 22.

Father Bader spoke in Venice, where he and other church figures from the Middle East attended a conference on tradition in Christianity and Islam. Like others, he said Arab populations are now looking for Obama's words to be translated into action.

"Credibility will follow that -- realizing what he said in actions on the ground," he said.

Demonizing pro-life Democrats


Is there room in the Obama governing coalition for pro-life Democrats? The president personally provided the answer to that question, a resounding yes, in his speech at the University of Notre Dame last month. Others are not so sure.

The issue arises most recently with the recent appointment of Alexia Kelley as director of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Progressive Catholics at home in Obama administration


WASHINGTON -- Catholics are visibly more active in the Obama administration than in any other Democratic administration in recent memory. Few might have guessed this only a few months back.

“The administration knows that one of the reasons that they’re here is because key chunks of Catholics -- switchable Catholics -- moved from the Republican column to the Democratic column in this last election,” said Stephen Schneck, director of The Catholic University of America’s Life Cycle Institute and former chairman of the university’s politics department.

Call to the bishops: 'build on hope, not fear'



As Catholic bishops gather in San Antonio this week, they face some tough questions. Their most recent engagements with politics sharpened divisions within the church and left the bishops shaken, even embarrassed.

Many church leaders harshly criticized the University of Notre Dame, long beloved by Catholics, because its administration invited President Obama to give the commencement. The local bishop decided to boycott the event, and one of the country’s most respected lay leaders, Mary Ann Glendon, turned down an honor that she had earlier accepted. Highly publicized attacks on Notre Dame and on the president of the United States took place as the most radical anti-abortion groups harassed university officials and students.

But Notre Dame’s graduates and their families enthusiastically welcomed President Obama, listened attentively to his persuasive address, and cheered an eloquent introduction by Notre Dame President John Jenkins, C.S.C. Notre Dame emerged strengthened by the controversy while the bishops seemed isolated and at odds with a significant portion of their Catholic flock.

'No consensus' on follow-up to Notre Dame flap


Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of Los Angeles, 66, is chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Education, and thus likely to be a key player in discussions about the fallout from the University of Notre Dame’s controversial decision to invite President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address and to award the president an honorary doctorate. Curry is also a distinguished intellectual with a special interest in church/state relations; he even operates a blog devoted to church/state issues at He sat down with NCR during the bishops’ spring meeting in San Antonio today to discuss the Notre Dame/Obama case.

(Read also Allen's interview with bishops' conference vice president Bishop Gerald Kicanas: No push to punish Notre Dame for Obama invite.)

Will there be any conversation about the Notre Dame/Obama controversy at this meeting?

No push to punish Notre Dame for Obama invite


Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, 67, is a Chicago native, former rector of Mundelein Seminary and a former auxiliary bishop in Chicago. Widely seen as a moderate and pastoral figure, Kicanas was elected vice-president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2007, which puts him in line to become president of the conference in 2010.

He sat down on the margins of the U.S. bishops’ meeting this week in San Antonio to discuss the fallout from the debate over the University of Notre Dame’s decision to award an honorary doctorate to President Barack Obama, and to invite him to deliver the university’s annual commencement address May 17, despite the protests of dozens of bishops, and despite a 2004 conference statement which said: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

(Read also Allen's interview with Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of Los Angeles: ‘No consensus’ on follow-up to Notre Dame flap.)

Obama and the Catholics


It is increasingly evident that the Catholic conversation in the public square has undergone a significant change during the past two years and with the help of some unlikely participants. The first of those would be the new president, who has drawn significant fire from certain episcopal quarters and another would be the Vatican, which has been playing against type -- or at least the expectations of some -- when it comes to the new president.

A third set of players -- high profile neoconservative Catholics in the United States -- has succeeded in highlighting not only the changing conversation but the disintegrating royal construct out of which bishops could once command authority simply because of their station.

White House consults on how to make abortion rarer


WASHINGTON -- To state the obvious, the Obama administration is not about to take any steps to make abortion illegal. But after 35 years of culture wars, the administration is engaged in extensive consultations on what can be done to make abortion rarer in this country.

Participants in the consultations said several sessions were held in May and more were expected in June.

Engage Obama or fight him?

WASHINGTON -- While agreeing that abortion is unacceptable, two pro-life professors disagreed on whether it is appropriate to engage President Barack Obama on the issue of abortion or to insist that it be outlawed in order to protect the dignity of the unborn.

During an 80-minute discussion May 28 at the National Press Club, Robert George, professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison program in American ideals and institutions at Princeton University, and Douglas Kmiec, professor of law at Pepperdine University, expressed divergent views on how to approach the Obama administration.



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